Rio de Janeiro - Olympic boxing is bloody again.
fighting without headgear for the first time in 36 years, making the sport
debatably safer and undoubtedly more attractive to fans. But the most tangible
consequence is gore: More than a dozen boxers at the Rio Games have already
incurred significant facial cuts in the first six days of the tournament.
middleweight Ilyas Abbadi was unsure how he got the 1 1/2-inch gash outside his
left eye during his victory over Congo's Mpi Ngamissengue on Tuesday, but blood
trickled down his face during the bout. The cleaned-up wound still gaped to
reveal bloody tissue afterward, and he could only hope his training staff could
close it satisfactorily before his next fight Friday.
I know the value of the headgear," Abbadi said through a translator.
"I think for the amateurs that would be better. I would prefer to fight
with headgear, but this is how it is."
Olympics are the amateur game's biggest showcase by far, and the sport
desperately hoped a major cut won't ruin a fighter's hopes through medical
disqualification. It happened for the first time Thursday, when a 2-inch cut
near Armenian welterweight Vladimir Margaryan's right eye forced the stoppage
of his bout with Cuban gold medallist Roniel Iglesias after just 87 seconds.
coach, Karen Aghamalyan, said his fighter already had a cut from his first
Olympic bout four days earlier. Ringside physicians couldn't close the gash
when it re-opened in the first minute against Iglesias, who was a heavy favourite.
boxing, the sight of blood on a fighter's face and chest is common — and an
undeniable part of the sport's primal lure. But that visceral reminder of the
sport's inherent violence had been rare in the modern amateur game until the
International Boxing Association (AIBA) removed headgear from its fighters in
2013, citing scientific studies claiming protective padding actually increases
AIBA has worked to improve its boxers' fighting styles to minimize head
clashes, cuts have become a steady occurrence at major tournaments ever since,
often when two skulls collide in an up-close exchange of punches.
absence of headgear has led to several grisly, compelling scenes in preliminary
Adlan Abdurashidov and Algeria's Reda Benbaziz both were cut Tuesday during
their lightweight bout, which was stopped twice in the second round for
Abdurashidov to receive medical attention. Blood dripped steadily from
Benbaziz's face in the third.
guy was using his head a lot, and he received a warning from the judge,"
Benbaziz said after winning the decision despite a 2-inch cut through his right
eyebrow, which was already swelling moments after the bout. "Yeah, it will
affect my next fight, but we will have to fight with an injury. I wish I could
be using the head guard."
could only grimace in frustration, blood caked to his upper chest above his
first minute after the cut, it was very uncomfortable for me,"
Abdurashidov said. "I took some punches because of my eye. It was from a
head-butt. Usually, it's very good to fight without headgear, but today it was
a minus. In general, it's better for me without."
echoed the feelings of many fighters, who appear to be roughly split on the
change. Despite the risk, many boxers prefer the increased peripheral vision
and freedom of movement allowed by an uncovered head.
don't like getting cut, but I prefer to fight without headgear," said
Ireland's David Oliver Joyce, who was left bloodied by a clash of heads in his
loss to Azerbaijan's Albert Selimov. "I'm more of a pro-style boxer, and
for the past couple of years, the amateur system suited me."
boxers began wearing headgear between the 1980 Moscow Games and the 1984
Olympics in Los Angeles. Organizers believed the cushions around the skull and
cheeks would cut down on concussions and other serious head injuries, but they
also protected fighters from bloody damage, allowing them to compete in a
multi-fight tournament with almost no cuts.
fighters' faces hidden behind bulky padding, the amateur sport gradually lost
its long-held status as a must-see Olympic event. The headgear era roughly
coincided with the move to a computer-based, punch-counting scoring system.
factors contributed to Olympic boxing's evolution into a sometimes plodding
sport derided as "fencing with gloves," with fighters rewarded for
light punches and elusiveness over power, toughness and combinations.
returned to a pro-style scoring system since the London Games. The resulting
sport is more attractive in almost every manner, and the bouts in Rio have
generally been more compelling — but the blood on the fighters' faces portends
a potential problem.
boxers get several months of recovery time between bouts. Olympic boxers must
fight up to five times in a nine-day span, with no time for significant cuts to
heal in any meaningful way.
fighters will punch and pray.
bantamweight Vladimir Nikitin bled all over himself while beating Vanuatu's Boe
Warawara on Wednesday. A deep cut in the scalp on the left side of Nikitin's
head sent blood pouring down his face and neck, but he smiled through the
reddened mess when his hand was raised in victory.
believes he'll have no problem fighting again Sunday.